beautyIQ series Part 4: How to Best Target Your Southeast Asian Customer

, , ,

This article of the beautyIQ series will provide tips on how to target customers and generate demand for your products in Southeast Asia. In the previous articles, we looked at how to create engaging, localized content and where to best sell online to present your product correctly to Southeast Asian customers. Even if you have the best product in the world, it is important to get it in front of the eyes of potential customers.

The internet is full of tips on how to do automated personalized email marketing, show up at the top of Google search and run ad campaigns to lead browsers to your online store, but with such a diverse and large audience as in Southeast Asia, the general ‘spray and pray’ digital marketing strategy will not work. To make your marketing campaigns successful, the trick is to leverage on the online and shopping behavioral traits of your target audience in each Southeast Asian country.

Which channel does your target audience use for product research? Which are the most popular social media networks? Do customers use laptop or mobile to buy products online?

Southeast Asian nations are among the ones who spend the most time online. Philippines is the second country after Brazil by hours spent online daily – people aged 16 to 64 years access internet through their computers 5.2 hours and through their phones – 3.2 hours every day.

Singaporeans are the least internet active – they spend online daily “only” 4.2 hours on their PC and 2.1 hour on their phones. This provides an excellent opportunity to reach your customers through various online tools as they are connected for the most part of the day.

These are some of the habits you will want to know before moving forward with your online marketing campaign. The better you understand your customer, the more you know what they want. Many companies already sit on gold mines of unutilized consumer data – take advantage of it as well as these reports to increase the success of your digital marketing strategy.

An ecommerce marketing strategy in Southeast Asia should include the following parts:

  • Continual communication with the customer, i.e. several direct emails per month
  • “Always-on” paid search campaigns
  • Dynamic retargeting
  • Discounts and samples


Send Emails to Keep Communication Fresh

As 96% of online Southeast Asian consumers identify themselves as email newsletter subscribers and 48% have made a purchase as a result of a marketing email, it is the top communication channel for marketers who target their products to customers in the region.

Offer your customers a newsletter subscription pop-up with an incentive and send them emails directly (EDMs) one or two times per week depending on how many promotion campaigns you plan to run. If you offer deals more frequently, send emails more often. aCommerce internal data find that even if your offers are less frequent, sending emails accordingly to remind your subscribers about new products at least once or twice a month will still result in conversions.

Some tools to automate email marketing include: Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, Getresponse Bluecore.

Examples of beauty brands that do it correctly: Kiehl’s presents first time visitors with an email newsletter subscriber pop-up, offering free delivery and samples. Other brands may take it one step further by offering a specific incentive such as a discount off a user’s first purchase.

Premium cosmetics brand Kiehl’s motivates customers to subscribe to its newsletter with incentives. Source: Kiehl’s Thailand online store

Bobbi Brown Thailand is another brand that continuously connects with customers through emails. It lands weekly emails into subscribers’ inboxes with promotion details, a call-to-action (CTA) link on the image in the email which directs them to the Bobbi Brown website and occasionally, discount promotion codes.

Bobbi Brown offers its customers in Thailand a gift with a purchase worth 2,500 baht. Source: Bobbi Brown weekly newsletter

Once a visitor has subscribed, brands should follow up with personalized emails, which is among the most effective channels for ecommerce business to drive orders. In 2014, the average return on investment in email marketing in Britain was 38 pounds ($47) for each 1 pound spent. Yet, even smaller returns make it worth invest in email marketing.  

Building up a customer database opens the door for marketing automation and highly targeted customer acquisition and activation at scale in the future.

Keep Paid Search Campaigns “Always-On”

Search marketing is the most effective customer acquisition tactic and customers in Southeast Asia, same as elsewhere around the globe, turn to search engines when looking for information about products they want to buy. In Singapore, 67% of internet users searched online for a product or service to buy, while 48% in Thailand and 31% of Indonesia’s internet users did the same.

Google provides excellent tools for brands to appear at the top of search ranks when customers search for a product from your line. Don’t let your competitors or other distributors steal customers who look for your products – do paid search marketing. It means you bid for ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links for keywords related to your business – your brand name, product line or generic product name you sell. Then you pay the search engine a fee for each click.

If the benefit of an online store is purchase at anytime, brands should drive traffic to their sites by keeping paid search campaigns “always-on”, especially for its own brand keyword.

For example, when searching for South Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree, the first link that appears in Thailand is a paid ad of a US online store, iHerb, which sells online Innisfree products among others. The webstore of Innisfree itself appears as the second link, which means that Innisfree is not bidding for their brand name and may lose potential customers.

Source: Google search results page for South Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree

Kiehl’s, Maybelline and Estée Lauder, on the other hand, are brands that run “always-on” campaigns. Keyword search for Kiehl’s brings the brand’s ecommerce site the first on the search engine result page, ahead of other online shops who also sell Kiehl’s products in Thailand and bid on the same keyword. This allows Kiehl’s to acquire high value customers through its brand keyword searches and control the customer experience end-to-end.

Source: Google search results page for premium cosmetics brand Kiehl’s

The average cost-per-click (CPC) for your own brand name is very low as Google gives brands and their landing pages a higher Quality Score, and the more people click on it, the more relevant it becomes and the cheaper it will cost for the brand. There should be no excuse for not bidding on your brand name all year round, even if it is just to protect the brand against competitors.

If you register on Google Adwords, you will be able to estimate how much bidding on your brand name as well as other keywords would cost. Google will provide you with suggestions what other keywords you may want to bid to get seen on the search engine’s result page. For a new brand in the cosmetics industry the minimum recommended amount to spend on paid search advertising in Thailand, for example, is 7,000 Thai baht (around $200), while the average monthly budget might be around 20,000 Thai baht (around $570).

Increase Brand Awareness on Social Networks

Southeast Asia claims one of the highest social media usage in the world – in all six countries social media penetration exceeds 70% and is expected to grow in the future as well. On average, internet users in the region spend on social networks every day from 1.6 hours in Singapore to 3.7 hours in Philippines. Across the region, Facebook and Instagram and Youtube are among the most popular social media networks.

Use this knowledge to run dynamic retargeting campaigns – it means that customers who’ve already once visited your site to look for a product, but have left without a purchase, would be reminded on social networks such as Facebook that the product they are interested is still available on your online store.

Dynamic retargeting through platforms like Google, Criteo or Sociomantic are the most effective channels in ecommerce to drive both customers to your online store and sales. Platforms like Criteo allow brands to retarget users across both Facebook and ad networks as well as across multiple devices. Dynamic retargeting is a “no-brainer” channel commonly applied by retailers such as Lazada and Sephora, but unfortunately still ignored by many brands.

Facebook also allows businesses to target ads towards existing customers or potential customers that share their interest with its Ads Manager function, a ‘lookalike audience’. That is another way you can make your customer list work for you.

Offer Discounts and Samples To Drive Sales

Everyone loves discounts, especially in Southeast Asia. According to a Mastercard Survey, 75.8% of Thais are influenced to shop impulsively from online merchants when prices are lower, second only to shoppers in the Philippines, who came in first at 76.4%.

Offer discounts to your customers on certain product lines or on major public holidays, when people like to give gifts to one another to keep them coming back to your online store. In addition, offer them samples to try out new products. Both of these incentives work well as retention strategies.

Brands such as Bobbi Brown and Kiehl’s offer samples upon check-out, allowing shoppers to choose between miniature sizes of cleansers and toners, providing in-store perks with the online experience. A small, yet pleasant detail.

Shoppers can choose up to 3 samples upon check-out on the Kiehl’s Thailand website. Source: Kiehl’s Thailand online store


Southeast Asian consumers’ internet usage and shopping habits offer a great opportunity for brands to capture existing and new customers – they are already online, a nudge with an email subscription or a discount might be all that is needed to persuade them to buy your products.

Stay tuned for the next article in our beautyIQ series the following Monday. To better understand the general population habits in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, we have also gathered reports and infographics to better guide your journey.



We’d love to hear your feedback,

find us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.